Loudonville, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The series to decide the College Basketball Invitational championship shifts to upstate New York on Wednesday night, as the Siena Saints attempts to wrap up the title against the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Alumni Recreation Center.
The teams met for the first-ever time in the opening game of the series on Monday night at the Save Mart Center, with Siena coming from behind to capture a 61-57 victory. Fresno State made the most of its homecourt advantage early by opening up a six-point halftime lead, and that advantage swelled to as many as 12 early in the second stanza, but Siena charged back with a 17-6 run later in the frame and took the lead for good at a the 5:51 mark following a Lavon Long layup. In a one-possession game late, the Bulldogs shot 0-of-6 from the field over the final 6:59 and committed a pair of turnovers over the final 24 seconds. Long paced the Saints' winning effort with 13 points, while Rob Poole and Ryan Oliver netted 12 and 10 points, respectively. For Fresno State, Cezar Guerrero tallied 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, Marvelle Harris and Alex Davis poured in 12 points apiece and Tyler Johnson scored 10.
A win for Siena in this matchup would secure its first Division I national postseason title ever. The Saints' only previous postseason championship came in the 1950 National Catholic Invitational. If Fresno State comes away victorious, a decisive Game 3 will take place on Saturday afternoon at the Alumni Recreation Center.
Fresno State (20-17) earned a berth in the championship series by conquering Texas-El Paso on the road in the first round (61-56) before returning home to take down Princeton (72-56) and Old Dominion (71-64). It has been led this season by a stellar offensive attack that puts up 72.4 ppg on 43.8 percent field goal shooting and 72.7 percent at the free-throw line, which is just good enough to support a modest scoring defense (70.1 ppg). It also generates extra possessions with a stellar turnover margin (+1.3). Johnson acts as a catalyst and is a multi-faceted performer, scoring 15.7 ppg with great percentages from the field (.481), 3-point range (.431) and the free-throw line (.814) while adding 7.3 rpg, 3.0 apg and 1.1 spg to boot. Harris brings 14.6 ppg to the table, while Guerrero (12.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Paul Watson (10.0 ppg) are also regular contributors.
Siena (19-17), also participating in its first CBI, downed Stony Brook (66-55), Penn State (54-52) and Illinois State (61-49) in the earlier rounds prior to its Game 1 victory, giving the surging Saints eight wins in their last nine games. The team is also 13-4 at home this season, but this marks the first time it will play at the Alumni Recreation Center since 1997, as its home games are typically played at the Times Union Center in downtown Albany. The squad's offensive attack hasn't been much to brag about this season (.417 FG percentage, 68.9 ppg), but it boasts an impressive defense (.413, 69.6 ppg), which has held opponents to a mere 53.3 ppg during this event. Poole (14.6 ppg) has drained 69 3-pointers at a 36.3 percent clip. Brett Bisping puts up 11.1 ppg and 6.6 rpg, while Long, Evan Hymes and Marquis Wright all score between 9.5 and 8.4 ppg.